Southwest High School principal Tyrone Bacon said he was “let go” by the Bibb County school superintendent Tuesday, after a state oversight agency said it was investigating the superintendent and two of her top assistants for failing to report alleged misconduct by Bacon in 2008.
“She just let me go,” Bacon said. “We were at a meeting, and (Superintendent Sharon Patterson) said ‘we won’t be offering you a contract next (school) year.’’’ Bacon said he would finish out this school year.
In September, two Bibb County school board members filed an ethics complaint with the state’s Professional Standards Commission alleging that Patterson, Deputy Superintendent Sylvia McGee and Assistant Superintendent Mack Bullard failed to report two other cases of principal misconduct: a high school principal’s affair with a subordinate, and a middle school principal accused of choking a student.
The state was in the midst of that investigation, and it is now looking into the Bacon matter, said Gary Walker, director of the commission’s ethics division. That case, because of its nature, should have been reported to the state, he said. The commission issues teacher certification and requires educators to act professionally.
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“This is a continuation or slight extension of the investigation that was already under way,” Walker said.
Under the Professional Standards Commission’s code of ethics, when someone suspects that an educator has violated the law or ethical standards, he or she is to report the matter to the state agency within 90 days. Reportable offenses can range from testing violations or sexual offenses to misappropriation of public funds.
Bibb school officials said that while they were gathering central office investigation cases recently, they discovered that Bacon’s 2008 reprimand for allegedly mismanaging Title I funds had never been reported to the state.
Failing to do so was simply an oversight, McGee said.
“When we were reviewing these things ... we realized we did not make a report,” she said Friday. “It couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
McGee said the school system’s attorneys were sending the Bacon case on to the state agency.
In a Nov. 19, 2008, letter of reprimand, the school system suspended Bacon for 10 days without pay. According to the letter, Bacon had held a Summer Institute Program for students in June 2008. After Bacon was notified that there weren’t enough federal funds in his school account to cover the costs of the program, however, he “instructed staff to sign and submit ... falsified time sheets,” saying that the program took place in July 2008 in order to draw more Title I money from a new fiscal year, according to the letter.
“All changes to these documents were made at your direction and are a clear violation of federal and school district policy ...” the letter states.
Bacon denied the accusation when contacted about the letter’s contents.
The principal also was cited by the school system for hiring a catering company for school functions that was owned by two of his school employees.
Bacon also was disciplined for irregularities concerning student tutoring services. Southwest parents turned in papers selecting vendors for free tutoring services, which is required when schools don’t make progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Afterward, however, someone at Southwest changed the parents’ tutoring choices and selected a vendor that the school preferred instead, the letter of reprimand said.
“That never happened,” Bacon said Tuesday, adding that because of poor accounting practices at the school system’s central office, he was shown to have more money in his federal Title I account than he actually had. When he planned to hold his summer tutoring program, he said, he was told by officials at the central office to go ahead and have it.
“I signed off (on the suspension) because I wanted out of it,” Bacon said Tuesday. “I should have fought it. I think there was a lot of things in this system not handled, systems or procedures not in place.”
“Everyone is hiding, and no one is running this place,” Bacon added.
The 2008 reprimand letter to Bacon, signed by Patterson and copied to McGee, Bullard and Dan Ray, an assistant superintendent for Human Resources, stated that the cases would be reported to the Professional Standards Commission.
But Walker, the director of the state ethics commission, said that wasn’t done within the allotted time frame.
“We did not get that complaint,” Walker said Friday afternoon. “They are all logged in by the legal secretary.”
That type of offense should have been reported, he said.
“We sanction educators for these type of actions all the time,” Walker said.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.